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Oct. 21, 2022

Day 50: Halloscream Xtreme at Luna Park Sydney in Sydney Australia

Day 50: Halloscream Xtreme at Luna Park Sydney in Sydney Australia

Billed as “Sydney’s scariest Halloween event,” Halloscream at Luna Park is celebrating 10 years of XTREME FEARS with 3 horror mazes, an immersive Horror Themed Attraction, and unlimited rides. Luna Park Sydney is a heritage-listed amusement park...

Billed as “Sydney’s scariest Halloween event,” Halloscream at Luna Park is celebrating 10 years of XTREME FEARS with 3 horror mazes, an immersive Horror Themed Attraction, and unlimited rides. Luna Park Sydney is a heritage-listed amusement park constructed in 1935; the park caters to families during the day and uses Halloween as a second scarier gate. Today, we’ll learn about the event and its unique challenges from Andrew and Kate. Andrew Ross-Graham is the Showtime Manager at Luna Park Sydney, and Kate Englefield is the Creative Director for Fractal Creative. Follow along to our Hauntathon:


Andrew: My name's Andrew Ross Graham, I am the Creative Arts and Aesthetics Manager here at Luna Park Sydney, in charge of most of the administrative and in park creative side of HalloScream in the park.

Kate: And my name is Kate Engelfield, and I am from Fractal Creative. We design all the horror attractions for the Big Top for HalloScream at Luna Park Sydney, and especially for HalloScream X this year. I also work as part of a collective called the Global Scare Network where we discussed deep seated storytelling in horror.

Andrew: Luna Park has become the go-to Halloween event for all Sydney siders, and we celebrate 10 years with HalloScream this year.

So HalloScream Extreme at Luna Park Sydney is a 11-night event running through October, featuring five scare precincts, we've got three mazes, one horror immersive attraction, food and beverage, unlimited rides, as well as interactive experiences for all guests to get involved.

Philip: What do you have planned for this season?

Kate: This year we have three mazes that are going into the Big Top. Every year we do three mazes, but we carry two over. So, we continue to storyline from the previous two years, and we create a completely new one.

So, for this year we are doing Rain Dead Two: Rises of the Replicates, where we'll see the replicates of the girl that we met last year who have now overtaken the entire facility. We're about 10 years down the tracks, so things are very overgrown now. So, that's a really fun maze.

Then, we are also doing the final and third year of Decay Mart which this year is Expiration Date. This year a band of vigilantes have overtaken and set a bunch of booby traps with zombies for our guests to encounter and get through.

Then the third maze, which is our brand-new maze is Grim, and Grim is a clown maze with a bit of a difference. It's got a nineties spin on it, and they're a band of clowns that have been going around trying to gather people together to join their crew. To get into the crew you have to pass three initiations. So, this year will be the first initiation that they have to pass. So, come down to the park and see if you pass the initiation.

Andrew: We have a new icon of fear, he is Xavier, he's a vigilant clown, not your average creepy clown, he's got a bit of punk rock attitude, a bit of theatrics behind him. We've implemented his own corner this year, so he has his own meet and greet space that's completely themed where you can interact with him all night. He's going to be our master of Scarremonies, which will open the evening every night at our opening Scaremony. He will also explain, this is what happens in this attraction, and this maze, and this, so that the guests are really getting an all-round overview of the night from our icon of fear.

Then, we're finishing off every night with a bang this year. So we are going to have Xavier's Welcome to the Circus Midway Rave. So, he's going to do a 30-minute DJ spot in the midway with a full interactive lighting experience and sound experience. We've got creepy clown dancers, and all of that, so the guests can really finish the park and the event on a high and just dance it out in the Midway, which we've seen them do for the past few years. So, we thought, why not give them an actual offering and something that's really different and new and fun.

Philip: Can you tell me a little bit about why. Why the three-year thing? Is it to match up with those arcs or why'd you guys sit on three years?

Kate: Look there's definitely a practical element to it in the fact that we have three mazes, and we obviously want to be able to offer something very new every year. But I think coming from a film background, which is where I come from, film and tv, I really like storytelling, it is where my happy place is, and my home is.

Philip: Beginning, middle, end, basically.

Kate: Absolutely. So, we get to start the story, introduce the story, second year we get to further it, and yeah, like you are saying, beginning, middle, end. By the end, this year we've got the Expiration Date, which is Decay Mart. Last year was the third iteration of our Outback series, which were our very kind of Australian mazes. So, we called with that one The Final Bleed. So, we like to give them like a nice little finishing point as well. And it's nice for guests, they feel like they're part of the event, every year they come they know a little bit of what to expect, but there's also the excitement of having something completely new that they haven't before. So, it's exciting for us as much as for the, I think, as well.

Philip: That is a great overview, but let's dig a little bit deeper into some of the characters that are going to be appearing this year.

Andrew: Yeah, so luckily, we are able to go bigger this year, so this year, for the first year, we are implementing precincts into the park. So, we will have four designated precincts within the park from start to finish. So, as Kate mentioned, one of our mazes, Grim, we are taking it out of the maze and bringing it into the park, so guests are getting a more immersive experience from the time that they enter, right through the maze, and right through the entire night. So Grim Inhabitants is the first precinct of the night, and that's at the front part of the park.

Then they move forward into the park, and we have Ratched Row, which is bringing back some of our nurses from a Ward 13 maze, and a hospital style maze that we've had in the past. So, we're bringing those nurses back and out into the park, so that the guests can really interact this time, rather than just seeing them for those two or three seconds as they walk through a maze. They're really getting to experience them for a whole night.

As they move forward further, we get down to Worship Way, which is bringing back the devil characters and our Satanic worshiping characters that we had in the past. Then finally we've got the Pig Pen. So, Kate mentioned we had our Outback sort of maze, so we've got these hybrid pig characters that are of filling our newest area, Luna Land at the back of the park with these kind of dirty pig, Outback sort of hybrid characters walking around and spooking our guests.

Last year we discussed how being a heritage listed amusement park we are very confined to what we can do, what we can build, what we can change, what we can work with. So, we took a really deep look at what we've got as assets, and then how we can utilize those to become attractions themselves, or part of the story, part of the show. So, this year we've decided to turn Coney Island, which is our iconic 1935 funhouse, into the Coney Island Film House.

So, what we're doing is we're going to do a guided immersive experience where the guests get to run into characters from iconic horror films, but they're on a path through the fun house where they need to go through the mirror maze, or down the giant slide, or they need to go across the wonky walk, moving floor, or all of that guided, but also scared at the same time because there are characters that may come out of who knows where while they're walking through.

Philip: In essence doing an overlay of a current attraction, and theming it to fit to the overall story as well.

Andrew: Yeah, so, Coney Island itself is full of all of those classic things that you would expect from a fun house. So, you've got barrels of fun, you've got the spinning wheel, you've got the wonky mirrors, the mirror maze. So, we looked at it and thought, "how do we make this entire building an attraction that we can use as an asset for HalloScream?

Philip: Why was it important for you all to add the precincts in?

Kate: From my perspective, I feel like Sydney doesn't have much in the way of Halloween attractions, or Halloween events that people get to go to.

So, I feel like for Luna Park, and for us here, what we have to do is we have to really create the gamut of experiences for people. So, people who are coming to Luna Park really want to feel like they get their Halloween experience in all different ways, and I think people enjoy different aspects of Halloween. So, we really need to become everything that Halloween needs to encapsulate for people.

So, having a, having the precincts really means that we can explore different themes, we can really go overboard on those different themes in different areas, and it gives people opportunities to come to the park and experience all the different things. So, whether you like jump scares, whether you like creepy scares, whether you like big over the top costumes, whether you like something a bit more subtle, we've got it all here. So, I think that's why it's really important for us to have those precincts so that we really get to cover the gamut of Halloween and really give everybody every expected experience that they have of a Halloween attraction and event.

Philip: Just playing devil's advocate, I'm wondering what kind of feedback mechanisms you'll have to make sure that you're not spreading yourselves too thin in those areas, and then you are able to correct course and say, Oh, really, they're not interested in this area or that area, or, we tried this thing and turns out we didn't have enough of that audience that liked it, so we're going to double down in this area. How are you judging that year after year?

Andrew: Like you said, we're one of the only ones in Sydney, and actually for the past two years, we were the only one in Australia that were able to operate a successful event for Halloween, nighttime events, and amusement parks. That was a huge thanks to our health and safety team, who did a massive effort in ensuring that we could operate safely. But a part of that Covid restrictions meant that we couldn't have roamers or midway characters for the past two years.

At the end of every event, we do have a survey opportunity for our guests that do attend and that gives them the opportunity to provide us in park feedback straightaway. So, we do have the guest relating team with iPads, as the guests are exiting the night to give immediate feedback, but then there's also an emailed survey sent out as well, so they can reflect a little bit later. So, we're getting a double dose of, in park, immediate feedback saying, What did you enjoy? What didn't you enjoy? What do you see more of?

Then, also, they've got time, a week later, to just really digest the event and go back and say, Oh, I could've seen more of this. I really like this. I wasn't too keen on this. That was one of the main things we saw, that they really missed the midway roaming characters. They missed that immersive experience in the park.

Philip: You mentioned, also, how important the immersive elements are, and if there's no other event around, why does it matter that you are putting this, in here? Because interactivity costs money.

Andrew: It does. Yes, you're very right. But like I said, it's important for us to be the only one in Sydney. Yes. It's a double-edged sword, like we don't really have anyone to compare to, but at the same time, we've got a captive audience. So, it's important for us to give that captive audience, and those return visitors, something more and increase the offering every year. But also, to draw in new guests and new people to the experience and to the event.

Kate: With our guests, we want them to feel like they are the lead character in their own nightmare, or in their own movie. So, rather than stepping into somebody else's nightmare they're the lead character. So, when they go through a maze, we talk to our actors and we say to them, make sure that the guests that are coming through, they're the protagonist, they're the lead in that movie. You are the supporting characters. So, you are the one coming in to be that zombie that comes in, but you are the one that escapes at the end, and you are the winner, and you are the one that kind of wins the day.

Philip: But why is it important?

Kate: Horror and horror attractions and scare maze are the only, one of the very only opportunities you have to let go of that fourth wall. When you go to the theater, you sit and you watch a show, and you're affected by the show, but you're not in the show. Whereas when you do this kind of work, I think that it's really important to make your guests feel like they are part of it. I think that's what actually really makes this really special, rather than your normal kind of proscenium arch theater style.

In Australia, we don't have that much in the way of Halloween and haunted attractions, but we do have a really thriving theater scene. Immersive theater is really on the rise at the moment, and I think that we just want to jump on that. We want to give Sydney and Australian audiences that high level expectation from the other things that they see and then draw them into Halloween. So, they realize that Halloween and horror isn't just a frivolous pursuit, it's as high art as anything else they can see in Sydney and Australia.

Andrew: Yeah, and I think too, the thing that we need to remember is that, especially in Australia, we've gone through a massive lockdown where social media was the go-to cure for everyone's boredom, and as a release. They've experienced the American horror, they've experienced what's happening overseas, because it was so close to their fingertips. So, everyone has looked at what's happening everywhere else, and now has an expectation of, if it's happening there, why can't we have it? Or why can't we see something like that? Kate and I are both very active in around the world haunts and looking at what's happening at other parks and other experiences, and we really want to give Australia, and especially Sydney, that opportunity to experience what the rest of the world has been having for years.

Philip: Luna Park Sydney is a family park, and as you mentioned earlier about it has to operate still as a family park during the day, but HalloScream has scary elements. Tell me about why that's a good idea.

Andrew: I think the reason that it's such a great idea for us to offer that scare element is because it's such a growing following in Australia. We have so many different haunt festivals around Australia. We've got so many horror enthusiasts around Australia. Even just the fact that a lot of movies are being filmed Down Under in Australia now, including different horror films, it's such a growing thing that we would be silly not to offer it, or not to explore it or venture down it.

Like we offer the fun park during the day. We've got our regular school holiday offerings, which include different movie activations of the fun and family type. We have our Harbor Party, which is our New Year's Eve party, which we transform the entire park into an 18 plus, adults only bar, club, fireworks viewing area, and then Halloween was the next best thing that we could offer to our guests. It's growing, we're up to 11 nights this year, which is fantastic because it proves that we are getting that following and that the guests are coming along that ride with us.

Kate: Another thing I think is super important, and I think this is maybe just more from my perspective and looking at kind of Halloween and horror as a whole. I just love, in the US, how you have this community vibe around Halloween. I feel like Halloween is such a wonderful opportunity for people to come out and explore those different sides of themselves they don't get to explore. There's also the element of kids going out and knocking on doors, and getting part of the community, and all coming together. I think that's a massive part for me. Not just at HalloScream at Luna Park.

I think that we should adopt, I'm talking to you Australia, we need to adopt Halloween as something that we do on a regular basis here, just because it's the only holiday where we really get to have that real community bonded vibe where we all get together to unite in something that we all love. I say we all, but especially people who are into horror, we all love that together, and this is the opportunity for us to come together and really explore that and get excited about it. Yeah, I think we should we should definitely embrace that more in Australia and not dismiss it as just an American holiday, that something that is fun for people that like the darker things in life.

Andrew: It's not just an American holiday. I know that's one thing we hear Down Under. It's, oh, why would we celebrate Halloween? It's such an American thing. But Australia didn't create Christmas, we didn't create Easter, we didn't create Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day is definitely not Australian, and we celebrate all of those every year. So, why wouldn't we also jump on Halloween and make you know that Australian and Universal?

Philip: Tell me a little bit about how you are using technology to solve some of the challenges that you have. Primarily being that you guys are space constrained, and as you mentioned, it's a historic site, so there's a limited amount that you can do in terms of build and infrastructure.

Andrew: Like you said, historic site is a key element that we really push into. So, we love to take an old school and really just use lighting and sound, like your regular AV is something that we really push for and utilize within the park. So, we theme everything with colored lights, we've got projectors, we've got the lasers, the moving lights that just create that atmosphere.

We pump a whole lot of smoke through the park, which really, surprisingly transforms it, and then sounds. So, using soundscapes, using background music, using the key elements of different vocals or different things to signify different events during the night, or happenings. So, there's a lot of technical elements that go into the planning and into the execution of the event that really help us transform the park after dark.

Kate: We're also using various sound and light in our mazes as well, to tell stories essentially. So, for Rain Dead we are doing that voiceover in the Game Master style in the queue line, so we've got that. Then when they get into the very first room, we meet the Game Master on a screen, so we get to see that. But we're also integrating that with various mag locks and things that go off. So, the Game Master will be speaking, but certain things will be happening as the game master is speaking.

So, they'll say, Oh, you hear a sound from within the facility, a sound will happen, a door opens, the Game Master will say, and the door will just magically pop open. So there's all of these nice little moments where things seem to happen as the Game Master is speaking, and as they go through the mazes.

We've got a laser swamp this year, which I know is a thing that you do in America quite a lot, but we're doing our first ever laser swamp. So, we're super excited about that. So, we've got that, and there's lots of other things through there.

Like I say, boobie traps in Decay Mart, so we're trying lots of new little things. Like I said, we've got pulleys and things that will connect to each other. So, if a zombie pulls a pulley, it'll ring a bell in another corner, which signals various warnings to the vigilante group that are in the next room. So, it's all setting up those little scare moments.

In Grim we've got a hypno wall. So, we've got various things that are spinning, creating that hypnotizing feel. What else have we got in Grim? Oh, Scott, who also works with us at Fractal, has been creating some really cool ways to get scares in different areas of the maze as well. So, at the moment where we've got a in Decay Mart that has a roof at the top that's Perspex with blood covered over it, and he's created this fantastic noise maker that kind of runs across these grooves, and it makes all this noise, so it sounds like there's zombies from above as you go through this corridor. So. Lots of different tech things to feel like the scare isn't just coming from one way, it's coming from everywhere.

Philip: Talk to me a little bit about the future.

Andrew: Yeah, so I mean, HalloScream 10, can't believe we're here. I've only been here for four years now. Kate's been here longer, so it's amazing that we can keep going and keep growing. So, we were lucky we're bringing back some of the characters this year. So, we are returning with Madame Fortuna, Satan the Devil, or El Diablo as Kate has titled him. Then we've also got Mr. Bowler returning as well as Mendal the Witch. Then this year we're implementing Xavier, who's our icon of fear for 2022. So, following that Grim clown aspect and the fun park, it just made sense to introduce a horror clown into the mix as an icon of fear.

So, we have already come up with next year's theme, but it's under wraps at the moment. So, we will launch that shortly after this year's wraps, but we are very excited for the future of HalloScream because the things that we're able to do this year, It just opens the doors to things we can do next year and years beyond. And like we said, the inspiration we get from overseas, and within Australia as well, gives us such drive to put on the best possible event that we can for our guests, our team, our staff, our performers, and our park. .

Kate: We've taken over as much space in the park as we possibly can, and up in our factory where we build, we've got two little mantras. One is better, not bigger, and one is sharpen the ax. So, we just want to continue to make what we've got, just that stronger, more detailed stories, better, better tech, all of those kind of things. So, we can't expand any further, but we can continue to get better at what we do and offer more intricate things and more exciting things to guests.

Andrew Ross GrahamProfile Photo

Andrew Ross Graham

Creative Arts and Aesthetics Manager at Luna Park Sydney

Kate EngelfieldProfile Photo

Kate Engelfield

Creative Director at Fractal Creative